Town Council Plans for Future, Branding Highest Priority


 “This is the follow-up meeting for the Town Council Strategic Plan,” said Lorna Kibbey of Leadership Solutions to the five Fort Myers Beach Town Council members at their workshop on Wednesday, August 14, “to decide what to do with the Strategic Plan for the future. Ninety percent of all strategic plans over time just sit on a shelf and we definitely want to avoid that, so we need to take actions that hold us accountable, to achieve our big goal of becoming a vibrant community.”

“The final result of this plan is to make Fort Myers Beach the best small beach community,” said Council member Bruce Butcher. Council member Joanne Shamp added, “What stood out to me is the absence of the word ‘unique’ – I don’t see anything in here that is unique.” Mayor Anita Cereceda piggybacked on those comments, noting, “We do not talk about the word, ‘beach; in here!”

Butcher reported on an informal survey he conducted on-line about beach communities. “US News & World Report lists the best 20 small beach towns in the nation and Sanibel is there but not us. ‘The Best 23 Beach Towns in Florida’ has Fort Myers but not us! That is true as well for ‘Culture Trips Best 11 Florida Beach Cities.’ ‘America’s 20 Coolest Beach Towns’ notes the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel but not Fort Myers Beach. It goes on and on, with no mentions of us at all! We have no identity to the public others than to the people who have already been to Fort Myers Beach!”

“The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau markets our area as ‘The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel,’” noted Shamp. “We want Fort Myers Beach!” Vice Mayor Ray Murphy agreed, saying “This is exactly what is on my mind, as that is not good recognition and has a huge effect upon us in not being able to move forward with our identity.” “Then let’s move in that direction, to correct that,” noted Council member Rexann Hosafros. “When we achieve these things,” Butcher concluded, “everything comes together to say that this is our island and then – BOOM – we have our brand!”

Five Core Areas

Lorna Kibbey, in red at the far end of the table, leads the Town Council Strategic Planning Workshop. Photo by Gary Mooney.

Council, working with Kibbey, went through the document’s existing Strategic Plan that reduced its six Core Areas to five. The new plan merged the first two categories of “Clean, Safe, Orderly Neighborhoods” and “Transportation” into “Vibrant Quality of Life” that contained subdivisions of “branding of uniqueness,” “business, recreation and cultural attractions,” “clean, safe, vibrant neighborhoods,” and “transportation.”

The second Core Area of “Financial Viability & Strength” now includes subdivisions of “funding quality of life initiatives,” “Capital Improvement Plan,” “financial reserves,” “alternate funding sources” and “utilities.” Core Area #3 is “Asset Enhancement & Protection” with “beach and shoreline management and water quality,” “civic property enhancements” and “asset branding, enhancement and preservation.”

“Managing Change” is Core Area #4, with subsets of “diligently working to raise awareness and actions expected by sea-level rise,” “monitor FEMA Mapping and CRS Rating” and “update and review the Town Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code.” Included in this category is the possible hiring of an Assistant Town Manager. Council renamed the final Core Area from “Gathering & Using Feedback” into “Communication” with subdivisions of “define and establish a unified brand,” “enhance the Town’s information outreach” and “utilize feedback collected from all sources in goal setting and decision making.” Perhaps the most significant change to “Communications” is that the Town will apparently hire a Public Information Officer.

What’s In A Name?

Upon completing the revised Strategic Plan, Council agreed that the #1 priority for the final six months is “Branding of Uniqueness” “This must be our #1 focus; it should be our #1 task, once we vote to affirm our new Branding firm at our August 19 Meeting,” said Cereceda. “For me, ‘Branding of Uniqueness’ is the #1 step; the rest of these things are important, but that should be the focus of our whole view, or so I hope! That would be a great accomplishment to hand off to the next Council and say, ‘Here you go; keep this going!’” “I totally agree,” said Shamp. “This is the time and place and we have the money and the moment to make this happen, to bring home a unified Brand!” The remaining Council members agreed to make branding the prime priority.

Butcher then stated, “We reviewed great examples of our failure to differentiate Fort Myers Beach from Fort Myers, so we should analyze a name change and perhaps put the idea on the March ballot. It can be a Yes or No vote, and if it comes back Yes, we can then explore new names, but we should start now, as changing the Town’s name will be a protracted and painful process.” “It would be,” said Cereceda, who said she has no interest in a name change, with Hosafros, Murphy, and Shamp quickly agreeing.

Following the Strategic Plan renovation, “What do you want to do next,” Kibbey asked Council. “I will rewrite this plan with all the new changes, then how do you proceed? What format do you want me to use to move it forward?” Council informed her to retain the current format, and that when the individual members receive her rewritten work, they will send her their comments for a final version. “If you need to, we can meet again,” said Kibbey, with Shamp adding, “If we think it looks good, we can adopt it at a Town Council Meeting.”

Icing On The Cake

“I share Bruce’s concern that we do not lose any of these things,” said Kibbey. “Not only now, but in 5 and 10 and 20 years from now, so if you think of anything you see missing, send me those, even if we are not yet ready to take immediate action, but to capture for the future. The thing I cannot do for you is to assign who will lead any of these action items or to complete them; that is up to you. As someone who is looking at this from outside the process, however, I am so glad that we looked at it all over from the very beginning, as look at all you have done and what you accomplished…you and the Town Staff need to be applauded for all your accomplishments.”

Shamp noted that Cereceda and Murphy were original Town Council Members from 1995 “who helped to bake the cake, and now have the opportunity to put the icing on the cake, as was the vision of the Comp Plan. This is an exciting time to get more pieces into place, to help complete the community, to put the icing on the cake!” Murphy noted, “I am happy to be here, to be part of this,” with Cereceda adding, “Me too!”


By Gary Mooney